In 2013 Nominet Trust received a grant application from Open Utility through the Social Tech, Social Change funding programme. Their vision - to build the world’s first peer-to-peer energy marketplace. This revolutionary online platform would enable individuals to buy energy directly from small-scale renewable energy producers, encouraging greater uptake of clean energy in the fight against pollution and climate change.
With our Social Tech Seed funding programme opening in March, we will soon be on the look-out for great applications from ventures using the internet and digital tech as a force for social good. Competition is fierce - we receive around 250 applications in each funding round, so the success rate for organisations that receive Social Tech Seed funding is about 1 in 30.
Our Social Tech Seed funding programme is open for applications until 4th November 2015. Based on some of our most frequently asked questions, we have outlined some pointers below to help you when applying.
1. Do you have a basic digital prototype?
Nominet Trust asks that applicants to Social Tech Seed have a functioning digital prototype. What we’re looking for specifically is evidence of the following:
For all the buzz that surrounds the tech start-up scene it’s easy to forget that founding and growing a successful social tech business from scratch is incredibly challenging and labour-intensive. Simultaneously developing a sustainable business, building key partnerships and pitching to funders and investors is no mean feat. Add to that the challenge of creating a product or service that effectively addresses a pressing social challenge and it is easy to feel overwhelmed.
I have a confession to make. And it is not just a one-off moral lapse, but a sustained pattern of behaviour, all the more shameful given my professional occupation. Here it goes... I hate surveys, and will do anything I can to avoid completing them. Pop-up surveys online are greeted by a dismissive flurry of mouse clicking and muttering (sometimes swearing) as I curse their intrusion into my browsing. The merest sight of a clipboard on the high street is enough to set me off on an evasive run that should catch the eye of the England Rugby selectors.
In 2010, IT consultants Gartner, predicted that the amount of data held by enterprises would increase 800% over the next five years. They also predicted that 80% of this data would be unstructured i.e. it would be made up of emails, reports, webpages, blogs, comments, videos and audio clips, etc. And this is just the data that organisations hold directly.
You don’t necessarily have to work in IT to encounter terms such as agile, lean, or sprint. The question for any social venture, especially one looking to use digital technology, is whether these terms refer to practices that are directly relevant and useful to their work? The short answer is ‘yes’. The longer answer is also ‘yes’, as there are a growing number of practice based experiences (both successes and failures) indicating that these new approaches developed in the commercial tech world are relevant, useful and well suited to socially-focused organisations..
Most organisations funded by Nominet Trust will use some form of survey or questionnaire in the process of evaluating their projects. The advantage to this approach is that it makes it possible to capture beneficiaries’ perceptions and subjective experiences, in addition to their observed external behaviours. This is an important aspect of the evaluation process as many of the changes that Nominet Trust projects are seeking to effect (e.g. increased confidence, greater awareness, reduced social isolation, etc.) can be difficult to measure purely by external observation.
Possibly...well I hope not, but there are some exciting possibilities being offered by digital technology to help researchers identify patterns and valuable insights in their evaluation data that might otherwise go undiscovered.
Most people involved in social investment want to know if their efforts are making a positive difference, but seeking to demonstrate attribution (linking changes observed to a specific intervention) can be far from straightforward, and might even be the wrong question to ask.